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PASSION PURPOSE PROGRESS Exclusive TheFoundingStory CelebratingMilestones with Unforgettable Life Stories The Ultimate Inspiration 10 Proven Power Moves Years ofEvent StylingMastery FEBRUARY 2023 ��

3 February 2022 The Birthday Journal C O N T E N T S Cover Photo Credit: Duque Photography The Founding Story 6 9 18 23 29 34 40 48 Weaving Together Love, Spirituality, Growth At 40 Why Themed Parties Are In Celebrating 25 Years Of Impart A Birthday Adventure Of Self-Discovery 10 Years Of Event Styling Mastery, 10 Proven Power Moves Eighty And Unstoppable AHeart Of Gold Embracing Fifty Discover The Art Of Gifting Lightning Strikes Twice 53 56 62 PASS ION, PURPOSE AND PROGRESS L I FE ’ S TAPESTRY THE DIAMOND OF THE SEASON THE JOURNEY INTO PURPOSE SOLO ESCAPE A DECADE OF INSP I RAT ION AND DI SCOURSE THE L EGACY OF ESTHER AND HER BRAVE BATT L E AGAINST CANCER CE L EBRAT ING MI L ESTONES BY GI V ING


6 February 2022 The Birthday Journal I don’t exactly remember when my passion for photography started, but I was a young adult. And boy!... Did all my friends and acquaintances suffer. I took photos of anything I came across, and anything that dared to cross my path; even the trees, flowers, shrubs, butterflies, sky, birds, and animals. Afterwards, I would sit down and look through the pictures, drinking them in, enjoying the various scenes and poses, and looking at all the beautiful people I had captured. I have often been accused that “we never see Mansa’s photos.” - it wasn’t deliberate. My challenge was how to get all the million photos in the hands of the people whose photos I had taken. Over the years, I developed another love. Printing. I have been involved in printing at all levels, but in the last couple of years, I have helped to print my church’s harvest magazine, which I was involved in from beginning to end. In 2020, my dad was approaching eighty, there I was goofing around, asking him to do a photoshoot. I am sure he was thinking, “like really? This crazydaughter ofminewantsme to do a photoshoot at eighty, with all my creaky bones?” But my dad being my dad, he was a good sport about it. He had his family and friends around. The idea really, was to capture my father’s life in print, to showcase his life story by chronicling his life in a magazine. Thatwas reallyhowI came up with the concept of ‘The Birthday Journal.’ As we did the magazine, we recreatedparts ofmydad’s life thatwe weren’t sure about. Making the magazine was a really fulfilling and interesting experience for me, because I got to sit with my dad, as we went through the various decades of his life. It is amazing how you can live with someone for a long time but not know some of the basic details of their lives, because, one, it may never have come up and two, you may also have never asked. On the day we celebrated his eightieth birthday, I was able to Passion, Purpose and Progress THE FOUND ING STORY “The Birthday Journal, is therefore a good avenue for letting people know that they are loved, that they are celebrated. It brings people into a limelight, that actually propels them for more wins for the future.” MANSA AGYARE

7 February 2022 The Birthday Journal come out with multiple copies of a beautiful magazine of my dad, which we handed out as souvenirs to the invited guests. The reaction to the magazine was amazing, and I was surprised at how quickly they were grabbed up. People were like, “why do we have to wait for people to die before celebrating them? It would be nice to celebrate them while they are alive.” My dad was truly, truly touched with his magazine. He had known that I was up to something but he had no idea it was going to be a magazine, so he was very happy about it. By gauging the reactions to the magazine, I noticed that its real purpose was to celebrate ourselves by telling our life stories. The norm is to showcase the lives of celebrities, but I believe that regular people can be and should also be given the chance to shine in print. When people see themselves in print, they tend to appreciate themselves more. Also, other people get to know their stories and admire them for who they are, what they have overcome, and what they have achieved. The Birthday Journal, is therefore a good avenue for letting people know that they are loved, that they are celebrated. It brings people into a limelight, that actually propels them for more wins for the future. It is a vehicle to help undiscovered ‘superstars’ to celebrate their milestone birthdays by writing and publishing their amazing stories. Interestingly, the magazine has contributed to my own self development. In the past few years, I had been pursuing a career in Events and Administration, however it felt like I was going nowhere. It was as if I had stagnated. I felt no real fulfilment. Little did I know that my past passions of photography and printing were preparing me, were just waiting for the opportunity, to push me to where I actually belonged. Through The Birthday Journal, I have found practical ways to be a better version of myself and to encourage others to do the same. I am in my true place I am doing what I love to do I am divinely happy I am divinely prospered Dr. JosephMurphy Mansa Agyare Founder and CEO The Birthday Journal Photo Credit: Nana Annan Photography

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9 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Life’s Tapestry Blondy Otu Weaving Together Love, Spirituality, Growth at 40

M 10 February 2022 The Birthday Journal My name is Blondy Otu. I just turned 40 and it feels like I am actually 18 with 22 years of life experiences. And yes Blondy is my real name! y parents actually named me after the popular 1938 comedy film Blondie, based on the comic strip of the same name, created by Chic Young who empowered her family to overcome so many challenges. I feel like the name aptly describes who I am and what I stand for. Love is not a scam. It is the first thing I ever remember and it dominated the first decade of my life. Our parents taught us to love God and to have love for each other. Pure love, true and fresh. My father was my first love. Being his first girl and a beautiful one at that, dad was so overjoyed that he took me with him wherever he went. I was that kind of baby who everyone loved to dote on because I was adorable and beautiful. And even as I grew, and even though I was a shy child, it was easy to make friends in my neighbourhood and at school. Besides, I was very academically inclined; a recipient of many Speech and Prize Giving Awards. Every parent’s dream child. On the basis of the above, it looked as if my life’s story was already written and the script was perfect. MY F I RST DECADE Love is not a scam “ There is potential, fire, in us that only comes out when we are stretched. Blondy

M 11 February 2022 The Birthday Journal MY SECOND DECADE The Otu Family y mom left Ghana to work in the UK resulting in us being relocated to our beloved maternal grandmother’s house. Something which left me with many pleasant memories years later. Grandma was a baker and not only was I too willing to take on the role of a ‘baker’s assistant,’ but I was also quite proud to take on some responsibility for my younger ones. A few more years into the decade and I was in high school. A period characterized by a certain level of freedom, I was away from home. This phase saw a new awareness of self that made me want to fly. Like reckless flying. A drunk butterfly. Instead of concentrating on my studies, I spent time socializing and making Broken Hearted My second decade was quite dramatic. The decade itself was ushered in with changes. new friends leading to a plunge in my academic performance. I was only too lucky to have dad’s unconditional love to lean against. It was at the last phase of my second decade that life gave me my first lemon. Nothing prepared me for the shattering experience I was going to face. It was heartbreaking. I hadmoved to the UK for further studies and whilst I was away, I received the news that broke my heart for the first time. My father was dead. At the mere age of 46 years old. It was so devastating! Who was going to love me like he did? Tell me that I was Ghana’s and even the world’s most beautiful? Proudly show me off to his friends and say all the wonderful things I was accomplishing even if they were only minor in my eyes? “Nothing preparedme for the shattering experience I was going to face. It was heartbreaking.”

12 February 2022 The Birthday Journal

13 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Whatawaytoentermythirddecade! Igrew up fast. It didn’t occur to me then that the fire in me was being stoked when I picked up the pieces, held my head high and took up responsibility, to help my widowed mother bear her now extra burden of raising five children alone. I didn’t realize that by taking up jobs in retail shops like Marks and Spencer’s, Next and Peacocks, doing a stint at a Finance House in WestMinster, and helping my mother with her African Food export business, I was responding to life’s challenge as it whispered, “Go girl!’ ‘You can do it,’ ’Don’t give up. ‘You have potential.’ Then in 2004, towards the last phase of my third decade, something good happened tome. Love.Or so I thought at the time. It was like some sort of madness tugging at the strings of my heart. It brought out the colour in everything; the green in the grass, the popping colours in the flowers, even the hues of fallen autumn time leaves were to me a richer shade of brown. It was as if life was compensating me for the loss of my dad, saying to me, “child you have suffered, here is a little something,” for, I met and fell in love with my childhood heart throb in London. I became pregnant in 2007 while studying Business Administration and Human Resource Management at Oxford Brooks University. I made the decision to defer my course. We got engaged in 2009 and I had my daughter in that same year. In 2010, my partner got a job offer in Accra, Ghana so we relocated to Accra. What I didn’t knowwas that life was hiding around the corner, its arms widely stretched, waiting to give me my second lemon. My blissful marriage was about to be hit hard by crises. When we relocated to Ghana, our marriage was fraught with many challenges. The burden of living in our in-laws’ outhouse, and the meager and inconsistent earnings of my husband made life unbearable. In indomitable Blondie (movie character) style, I rose up to the occasion of finding a job to support my young family. This show of strength was not well received by my husband and his family and it led to the breakdown of our relationship, eventually resulting in a divorce. I felt like a failure. I loved marriage. I almost committed suicide. Once again, life was stretching me but the fire in me was blazing. I held on to hope with my firmest grip ever, picked myself up and reared up to go. I wasn’t called Blondie for nothing. Growing Up Fast MY THI RD DECADE

14 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Thus, I entered the fourth decade of my life, like my mother’s daughter that I was. I had learnt a lot from her in terms of her tenacity, fastidiousness, resilience and determination. his decade of my life was marked by hard work. In my search for a job, I had contacted my godfather, His Eminence, the Archbishop Duncan Williams and had been offered a job at the church. I started out at the church’s Scholarship Foundation, before moving to the HR department as the HR manager, then I was transferred to the new church clinic. Later on, I had the opportunity to serve the Archbishop and his wife in various capacities. First, as Executive/Personal Assistant to Lady Rosa Whitaker Duncan-Williams in ‘The Whitaker Group’ and then as Protocol and Hospitality Coordinator to His Eminence. I earned a degree and a second degree in HR and Business Administration respectively from the Dominion University. Working with this couple shaped my life positively because it changed my mindset and my attitude. In my decade of service, I wore many hats. I was like the Jack of all trades, from executive to chef to cleaner to laundry-lady to odd job person to secretary and all. I juggled roles to wear the most needed hat at every point in time. Perhaps, I will title the second half of my fourth decade, ‘Evolving.’ I hadn’t arrived, but I was getting there. I was ready to soar. InMarch 2021, I decided to resign in order to pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur like my grandmother, father and my mother before me. I also wanted to spend more time raising my children. My frequent absences had started to be a problem for them and I didn’t want them to begin to resent me or the church because that took so much of my time. Withmy employers’ blessings I set upmy business and got an office space on theBoundary Rd in East Legon. Perhaps working as a ‘jack of all trades’ equipped me with multitasking skills. It is no wonder then that I have set up multiple related businesses which are all doing well. MY FOURTH DECADE Decade of

15 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Blondy Otu CEO of MAB Group

16 February 2022 The Birthday Journal I don’t have any regrets! I thank God for how far He has brought me and where He is taking me. I am excited for the next decade because I am confident in who I amwalking into it with. He picked me up from the miry clay and set my feet on a rock to stay. What do I have that didn’t come from Him?With this assurance I press into this new chapter knowing that IT CANONLY GET BETTER.

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18 February 2022 The Birthday Journal WHY THEMED PARTIES ARE IN THE D I AMOND OF THE SEASON It was 3 months before my 40th birthday. Taking a walk on the beach, as I so love to do occasionally, I thought how blessed I was to have another year added to my life. Not everyone was so lucky. Normally, I celebrate my birthday quietly with a few close friends; no hassle. Not that I had not seen all kinds of celebrations going on, but not forme. Iwas therefore takenabackwhenoneday, out of the blue, my best friend came up to me and shrieked, “It is almost your 40th birthday. We must have a party!” I looked at her like a deer stuck in the headlights. “P-l-e-a-s-e! “P-l-e-a-s-e,” she pleaded, a pained expression on her face, like she was going to die if I said “no.” And when I just kept quiet, she batted her long fake lashes at me and gave a wry smile. “And who is going to be doing all that work?” I asked. “I am,” she squealed, taking that as a “yes,” and shooting her hands up in the air like she had just won a medal.

19 February 2022 The Birthday Journal “AND IT MUST BE THE TALK OF THE TOWN!!” She added joyfully, giggling, jiggling and doing a jolly good dance. ‘Gossip Queen,’ aka’ Lady Whistledown,’ is what I call my best friend. A social butterfly, she is the very opposite of me. There is no high-society party she has not attended, whether or not she knows the host. Imean, I have seen her negotiate, bargain, and even kneel down to be invited. I don’t knowhow she does it, but she seems to know every RSVP at every high-society event. And evenwhen she doesn’t, she seems to know someone who knows someone. She can be a little bit, let me say, ‘crazy’ if I may say so. The funny thing is that in all the time that I have known her, she has never celebrated anything herself, not even her own birthday. For someone who has never celebrated anything herself, she seems to have lots of opinions on other people’s events. Whose party vibed and whose was a flop? Whose banquet went well and whose was a disaster? Which colours stood out and which were dull? So, I am definitely not getting cold feet about putting my party into her able hands. Lady Baawine

20 February 2022 The Birthday Journal “We must absolutely have a theme!” she yelled. Wait a minute. I had never thought of it. A theme? Now the birthday bash was beginning to sound like fun. Talking about themes, the first thing that jumped into my mind was Bridgerton. Ever since I chanced upon Netflix’s Bridgerton series, I have been taking my chance on living the life of a princess in my imagination, which takes me back to my childhood. I remember asking my mom once whether I would ever be a princess. Her response? That I was the princess of her heart. But that didn’t come with a robe, tiara, or sash, so I concluded that it was better to be a real princess than a princess of hearts. I know better now. What better time to live out my princess dreams? Guess who is going to be the diamond of the season? I put myself forward! I can see myself doled out in a regent-era ball gown, sparkly jewellery and accessories, and a glimmering tiara. While I am busy dreaming up my theme, the gossip queen is busy giving me a lecture on why I should have a theme for my birthday. Okay, Professor, bring it on. I am all ears! She walks all around me like we are in a classroom, and says, “The theme must reflect the celebrant.” That’s exactly what I’m referring to. Pomp and pageantry are my thing. I was borntobeaprincess.Elegance, elegance, elegance is the name

21 February 2022 The Birthday Journal of my game, and that is what a Bridgerton theme would bring to my party. “Preach on, Professor!” I yell. She stops talking, gives me a cautionary look and taps my head gently with her pen as if to say, “Tut-tut naughty, naughty child! Stop disturbing my class. “ Then, she dishes out her second point. “Having a thememakes it easier to plan your party.” Sure, I can see the point in that. Now that I have chosen my Bridgerton theme, I can easily envision the setting, the attire, and the venue. Professor Party has already started suggesting some star-studded venues. It is like she would be paying for the party. She writes something in her book and then moves on to her third point. “Having a theme sets the mood of the party and motivates the guests to get involved.” That is good because I don’t want my first ever self-held party to be boring, with guests looking at their watches and wishing they could be somewhere else. I can almost see all the guests arriving in their ball gowns and dapper suits. That is what I am talking about. I need this party to stand out from all others. Now that I know the theme, I can imagine the kinds of party games that would suit the occasion. Professor Party is pacing up and down, looking all serious as she makes her point. “Having a theme would make our party memorable.” Hellooow, “our” party? Last time I checked, this was my party. Anyway, on a serious note, I really need this party to be memorable. I am not thinking of dishing out such money only for the guests to forget about it when their backs are turned. It must be fun. The decorations, entertainment, setting, and food must exude splendour and luxury enough to create lasting memories in the minds of our guests. I must have a photobooth and a violinist as well. At last, the professor says with a relish, “Having a theme reflects your creativity.” Okay, Prof, I think I might be leaving this bit to you. Think outside the box. Put all your experience into action. Bring out all the sparkle, glitter, and glamour. So that is how I came to have the best 40th birthday bash ever. It was Bridgerton, and it was swell!! Check out our pictures. Next time you are thinking of a party, don’t forget that a theme helps Photo credit: Cynthia Okoe Photography

22 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Franka-Maria Andoh Because of His grace we have come far. It has not been an easy journey but nothing good comes easy. I am just blessed in the knowledge that the original purpose for Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino, the seed, the intention has materialised. That it has served as a haven, a space that heals, restores and creates harmony. “ ”

23 February 2022 The Birthday Journal I wonder sometimes what it would be like to have advance knowledge of the future. Like, if I knew years ago that my desire to be a lawyer would not come to be and I would end up doing a myriad of things that I didn’t even know when I was young to be possible. Our choiceswere limitedas teenagers inAccra, Ghana in the early80s. 1983 sawa famine andamass exodus of the middle class to the UK, leaving us to fend for ourselves. The word creative cannot exist in such circumstances and automatically, we were steered towards careers that would put food on the table. I remember bumping into my former headmistress in Accra and the sneer on her face when she askedme what I did and I told her I run a café. “You’re into catering,” she said, emphasising on theword catering as if it was something to be ashamed of. I was indeed accepted into Ealing College to study law but arriving in the UK late and finding things a little different to what I expected, I had to work before thinking about college. The only experience I had was working in my mother’s café, Cool Corner Café a very strategically positioned spot beside the big banks, Barclays and Standard Chartered, right across from the main Post Office, two stores away from Rose Pillars, adjacent to Glamour and with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly offices just up the road. I resented having to wake up early during the long vacation and giving up a day of hanging out with friends to work at the café. It turned interesting when my friends began to visit and the young guys from the banks came in to have interesting conversations. Little did I know at the time that I was setting myself up for the future. In London, I worked with an agency called Blue Arrow and my first job was in a Council café as a catering assistant. It was arduous work for someone who was slightly spoilt at home, and I remember how my fingers turned red from scrubbing large pots which had burnt baked beans clinging to the base. But I went back the next day, I had bills to pay and school fees to plan for. I worked FRANKA -MAR I A ANDOH Celebrating 25 Years of Impact The Cuppa Cappuccino Story The Journey into Purpose

24 February 2022 The Birthday Journal with a petite Irish chef called Carol and eventually she allowed me to prepare salads, taught me how to make trifles and sandwiches. I felt I deserved something better, especially when the well dressed black girls who worked for the council came in and were being all uppity. Although I was working, I kept applying for jobs as a sales assistant, a few people I knew had glamourous jobs on Oxford Street, Bond Street and High Street Kensington and I wanted to look glam too, well dressed, made up and positioned behind the Calvin Klein counter. All I kept getting were well written, polite letters that said no. I eventually ending up at the Hammersmith andFulhamCouncil Café which seated over 200 council employees. One summer, I met a Nigerian girl called Yinka. I was doing night classes at the time and when we got talking and she found out I knew how to use a computer she asked what I was doing working in a kitchen. “Idon’t knowhowtouseacomputer, but I’m applying for administrative positions,” she said to me. The next day, we walked down to the Job Centre and I found a locum position in the same Hammersmith and Fulham Council. I was interviewed and so thrilled when the call came through that I’d gotten the position. This was the beginning of many great experiences and my ability to get into Croydon Business College whilst still working. My work was accepted as course work and this was such a blessing tome. In 1992, I was hired by the Shoreditch Project Team, out of over 100 applicants. The Shoreditch Project Team, working under Hackney College was in charge of the biggest further education project in the UK and they paid my fees until I completed college. My job was to manage the office, the consultants and liaise with directors and organisations such as the Bank of England. At one breakfast meeting, my boss Chris quoted something I wrote on my application form. I loved my job, and they were gutted when I resigned. I was on a Ghana Airways flight the day after graduation because of a difficult experience but it was all part of God’s strategy. I had no network when I came back toGhana. Being a bit of an introvert, I had not cultivated any friendships after school and this meant that I had to find my own way. Ghana had changed. It wasn’t anything like the turbulent 80s, shops were well stocked with food items and Josephine Maria Andoh Mother

25 February 2022 The Birthday Journal there was a steady entry of investor companies into the country. I was alsoveryhappy tofindthat therewas a job agency runby a returneeMavis Ewa. Mavis did a great job briefing me on the job market and found me a few interviews. I was offered three job positions but settled with TNT Express Worldwide as a Customer Service Executive. Without going into much detail, I found that the confidence I had gained in the UK was going down the drain. From liaising with high level executives in the Bank of England, I found myself in this new job trying to explain to irate clients why their parcels had not arrived. Sometimes, my boss would take the phone from me in the middle of a conversation. I did not appreciate it then, but I recognise now that God creates discomfort when He wants movement from you. I had been writing for a magazine called ‘What’s Happening’ and when the CEO offered me a job as Editor I jumped at it. It was how I began to build a network since the job entailed, interviewing CEOs and heads of businesses such as DHL, Expert Travel & Tours amongst others. The idea of the café was birthed whilst at TNT Express. I’d gone to Country Kitchen to have lunch alone and had returned with a packed lunch. It seemed that it was not seemly for a young woman to sit byherselfandeatameal. Ihadissues with that, having enjoyed many solo lunches whilst in England, but I suspect that most business ideas are birthed from inconveniences such “The root, the intention, the seed of every venture. It’s something every budding entrepreneur should ponder over.”

26 February 2022 The Birthday Journal as I experienced. I’d already lost a bit of independence after six years of living in England and the café when I finally completed it became a haven for me. This brings me to a point that is very important to me. The root, the intention, the seed of every venture. It’s something every budding entrepreneur should ponder over. Although, my mother wasn’t sure about the location, at the time Airport Residential was exactly that, residential, she still supported me and was excited about getting into business again, even in her old age. She had lost the location in Accra at the point when her caféwas doing verywell. Cuppa Cappuccino became a source of new excitement for her. It was challenging to start with. The café culture was not yet established in Ghana. Most people went to the few high end hotels or hung out in homey, little spots where beer, soft drinks and kebabs were sold. There were days where we sold only one sandwich and I used to pray to God for 100 ghana cedis sales. I think God must have laughed when that prayer went up to Him, rolled his eyes and said, “Child! Please!” I used to think the focus for marketing should be expatriates but I am so humbled by how my Ghanaian clients have sustained us. In the year 2000, I realised that people were coming back to Ghana after living abroad many years, a number of whom had left in the 1980s during the economic and social unrest. Young graduates were also choosing to come back home and there was a flurry of activity in the country. I saw the café begin to blossom and to be a hub and a haven for many people. Couples got engaged in the café, there were some private marriage proposals that thankfully went well. First dates, beautiful memories. Husbands driving through traffic to pick up sandwiches and smoothies to fulfil their pregnant wives cravings. Then the Cuppa babies were being born and now visiting the café. I wondered if some of them knew how many sandwiches they had consumed in the womb. I remember one child when his mother opened the front door, stepping into the café declaring, “I know this place.” We’vebecomeacommunity, abusinessplace that is a home for creatives and people who appreciate creatives. Our support for the poor and needy, street children and orphans is an integral part of our existence as a business. We’d like to make a difference for having existed in this space. It’s important that lives are impacted positively because Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino came into being. Last year in 2022, we hired two deaf staff members. It was a fulfilling move and one that we’d been trying to undertake for a long time. Hopefully, we will be looking at hiring more staff from within the deaf community and creating opportunities for them to fulfil their dreams.

27 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Our twenty fifth anniversary slogan is about Love, Community and Stories. It’s our one liner strategy for moving forward as a business by working from a place of love, building a community both within the business and outside and being a business that is committed to the Arts, allowing creatives to utilise the space for their stories whether through music, film, fashion or theatre. Whowouldhavethought thatalittle, uncertain idea for a neighbourhood café would take seed, blossom and survive long enough to celebrate twenty five years in business? We are so grateful as a business to God for the vision in the first place and for being the author and finisher of all things. Because of His grace we have come far. It has not been an easy journey but nothing good comes easy. I am just blessed in the knowledge that the original purpose for Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino, the seed, the intention has materialised. That it has served as a haven, a space that heals, restores and creates harmony. I believe that each business has an essence that represents in an intangible way, what it stands for. My encouragement to other entrepreneurs and those who wish to embark on this journey is whatever happens, keep going, stay true to yourself and your vision. The race is yours to win, but only, only if that’s what you want. With all the twists and turns, this is the road I was meant to be on and it has proved a challenging road indeed, but one that is truly fulfilling. It’s been a journey that has allowed me to express myself in a myriad of ways and revealed in the process, many gifts of creativity. Thebeautyof reflection is in looking back and understanding why things happened the way they, why there were some roadblocks along that way and I am convinced that God’s plan is best and I’d rather savour the wisdom discovery than have pre knowledge of the future. I’d rather journey with Him in the discovery of His purpose. Franka-Maria Andoh was born in Accra. She started writing Christmas plays with her dad’s old typewriter aged 8 and took a long break fromwriting until 2004when she was selected to be a part of the Crossing Borders Programme organised by the British Council. Franka took off from then and has under her belt several children books, Koku the Cockerel, Dokono the Donkey, Yum Yum the Bully Boy, The Kente Curtain, The Kente Dress, Kumasi to London and Dear Kweku. With a grant from the Danish Cultural Fund, Franka selfpublished a collection of short stories, I Have Time and Other Short Stories. This won the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) – Ama Ata Aidoo Short Story Award. She also published a collection of essays celebrating ten years in the café business titled Still Passionate About Coffee. Her short story Mansa was featured in the Caine African Writers anthology and translated into Spanish. In 2021, her touching short story Twin Butterflies was accepted into the ‘Lockdown’ Anthology. Franka won a national award for her handbook for young girls titled Having a Period, Not a Little Girl Anymore. Her gift of creative non-fiction saw her co-author the book Sam with esteemedMember of the Council of State and lawyerMr SamOkudzeto. Her boutique publishing house Lemontree Publishing has birthed its first book by Franka-Maria entitled Under the Light which was launched officially in December during the 25th anniversary of her café. Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino was listed in 2015 by Ventures Africa as one of the leading café’s in Africa.

28 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Photo credit : Aqua Safari Resort webiste

29 February 2022 The Birthday Journal As I approached my 33rd birthday, I couldn’t help but reflect on this quote and realize that I had been living in my comfort zone for far too long. So, I made the bold decision to take a solo trip for my birthday, in search of some much-needed clarity and adventure. The days leading up to my departure were filled with a mix of excitement and apprehension. Was I brave enough for this solo journey? My friends and family tried to reassure me, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling of uncertainty. “Are you sure you’re ready for this? It’s a big step,” my sister said, with a hint of concern in her voice. “I need this,” I replied, trying to convince both her and myself. Finally, the day of my departure arrived and I set off on my journey. But, as fate would have it, my driver took a wrong turn and we ended up in another town, which was a threehour drive away from the resort. “Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed, feeling a wave of frustration wash over me. “Don’t worry, we’ll get there,” my driver assured me, trying to keep my spirits up. As we finally arrived at the resort, I felt a sense of relief permeate my being. The hotel was a beautiful blend of modern luxury and natural beauty. The driveway was lined with palm trees and as we drove closer, I could see peacocks and donkeys roaming around. The hotel had a beautiful lake where guests could take boat rides and fish. My butler, Martin, greeted me at the reception. “Welcome, madam,” he said with a warm smile. “I hope your journey wasn’t too hectic.” “It was quite the adventure,” I replied, trying to make light of the situation. Martin showed me to my room, and as I walked in, I was in awe. The room was decorated with petals and a beautiful design that spelled “Happy Birthday” onmy bed. “Wow,” I exclaimed. “My sisters must have called ahead,” I said, feeling a sense of warmth spread through me. SOLO ESCAPE A Birthday Adventure of Self-Discovery “Sometimes the journey to self-discovery begins with a single step out of your comfort zone.” BRENDA GY IMAH

30 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Brenda Gyimah

31 February 2022 The Birthday Journal The next two days were a blur of indulgence and adventure. Martin served me a three-course meal every day, and even surprised me with dinner by the lake on my birthday. The staff sang and danced “Happy Birthday” to me, and I felt like the queen of the world. I spent my days lounging by the pool, exploring the resort and its surroundings, trying new activities, and basking in the beauty of the lush green grass bordering close to the lake. The resort was a true oasis of peace and tranquility. It was the perfect place for me to get grounded in the word of God and connect with myself. The staff were exceptionally nice and made sure that I had a great time. Martin, my butler, was the best, always going above and beyond to make sure that I was comfortable. He was more than just a butler, he was a friend who made sure that I had the best birthday ever. As my birthday trip came to an end, I felt a sense of sadness. I didn’t want to leave this paradise, but I knew that I had to return to reality. I packed my bags and said goodbye to Martin and the rest of the staff. “Thank you for making my birthday one to remember,” I said with a smile. “It was our pleasure, madam,” Martin replied with a warm smile. The experience of my solo trip was truly life-changing. It taught me the importance of self-care and gave me the opportunity to reconnect with myself and my faith. I spent my days in quiet contemplation and connected with God in a way that I never had before. I would highly recommend a solo trip to anyone who is feeling stuck or in need of some clarity. It may seem daunting at first, but I promise you, the rewards are well worth it. If you’re thinking of taking a solo trip, I highly recommend Aqua Safari Resort. It was the perfect blend of luxury and natural beauty. The staff were incredibly friendly and accommodating. The resort had a beautiful lake where guests could take boat rides and fish. It is the perfect place to get away from the noise of everyday life and reconnect with yourself and God. Take that leap of faith and book that solo trip; you won’t regret it. “The experience of my solo trip was truly life-changing. It taught me the importance of self-care and gave me the opportunity to reconnect with myself and my faith.” Photo credit Brenda Gyimah

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34 February 2022 The Birthday Journal 10 Years of Event Styling Mastery, 10 Proven Power Moves A Decade Of Inspiration And Discourse TeamWHITECHALK

35 February 2022 The Birthday Journal “This is not fair,” I thought to myself as I put my phone off. It was a customer. A dissatisfied customer. I felt bad. Little did I know that my boss had heard the exchange. “I can’t afford to have you treat our customers like royalty,” he said angrily. “The customer is not always right.” I have watched you for some time, and I can’t work with you. You are more interested in pleasing the customer than being loyal to me. “You are fired!” Those three words shook me to my core. I felt completely downcast. I could not imagine that doing the right thing would end up this way. Perhaps it was my youth, perhaps my naiveté, but I didn’t understand workplace politics and how to please my boss. I had just finished my National Service. Or maybe it was just that my zeal to explore and express myself creatively wasn’t being properly harnessed. I was the creative type, and there was so much I wanted to do that I couldn’t do working with someone, as they had their own set of philosophies and rules. It was frustrating. 13 12 Bryan Tachie-Menson, CEO, WHITECHALK Events Planning Company; tall, dark, with well-groomed hair and a beard; smiled appreciatively as he narrated to “The Birthday Journal” how he came to be in the event planning space, his experiences, skills, and lessons that have helped catapult him to the pinnacle of the industry. When I lost the job, it made me wonder whether I was done with the industry, whether it was the end. However, I put myself together and got another job. I also took on side hustles I felt free to explore my creativity when I did my side jobs. It was this zeal to explore and express myself in what I call the “big world” Bryan Tachie-Menson CEO, Whitechalk

36 February 2022 The Birthday Journal in event planning. As time went on, I realised that I made more money from the side hustles than I did at my regular job. Moreover, I felt free to explore my creativity when I did my side jobs. It was this zeal to explore and express myself in what I call the “big world” that led me to establish “WHITECHALK Events Management Company.” The task was herculean. The industry was competitive. It was very easy to give up on it. One not only had to be ambitious, creative, and innovative, but passion is also a necessary ingredient in the event planning space. 1. 2. 3. 4. Secondly, one cannot thrive in this industry if they are not conscientious and pay attention to details. In view of this, we always ensure that we have clearly understood the client’s request. We always have our ears open to our clients by listening and communicating in a language they understand, even if we have to pay an interpreter to achieve this. And when there are limited resources or limited funds on the part of the customer to get a job done, we still find ways to communicate alternative options in order to get the job done. “At the end of the day, we need to get the work done.” In trying to put myself back in the industry, the first thing I learnt was that indeed, “the customer is always right.” In view of this, right from conceptualization to the execution of their events, WHITECHALK never underestimates or takes its clients for granted, whether they are big or small. We work with the client’s consent. If there is a need to add some touches to what they want in order to make their event more beautiful, we don’t hesitate to inform them. In fact, effective communication drives our business here at WHITECHALK; we are constantly updating clients with what we want to do and achieve to ensure it falls in line with their expectations. Another thing we have done is stay courageous in the face of our competitors, especially with regard to building our brand. Brand identity is one of the things that has driven us to the top. Brand identity includes your style and creativity. This gives you an identity. From the beginning, be sure of what you seek to achieve and where you want to be, then brand yourself as such. This is how I incorporate our brand’s identity into my event styling. Yet another tip for staying relevant in this industry is flexibility. Be willing to adapt to changes. Learn and practise new things constantly. Event planning takes a lot of time and creativity, so there must be constant learning and practising of the talent. There must be a constant search for inspiration and a quest to outdo ourselves every day.

37 February 2022 The Birthday Journal 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. One lesson we learned in flexibility was learning to incorporate cultural elements when required. Cultural elements are vital when it comes to event planning. WHITECHALK believes the best way to incorporate such elements into your designs is to learn about them and relate to them. There is no need to overlook or downplay certain cultural elements, for they are in line with the client’s beliefs, which are paramount to the event at hand. The best way to deal with it is to do research, network, and get to know people and their cultures. This helps a lot.” Another thing that has shot us to the top of this industry is our fearlessness when it comes to setting trends. When it comes to trends, WHITECHALK is a pacesetter. I recall setting a mania four years ago that swept the country. Never be afraid to set trends on your own; do not downplay your ability to create. Be bold and believe in your craft; that is the only thing that will help you make a difference. Fear NOT! Don’t be afraid to teach your workers the trade. Be willing to give them room to explore themselves. Don’t be afraid to share knowledge with your competitors and your vendors. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with others in the industry. It goes a long way towards growing your business. Be humble to ask for help if you want to do well in the event planning space. Resilience is another necessary attribute in his industry. The industry is fraught with challenges. Always anticipate and make provisions for last-minute challenges. You can’t give up on your client at the last minute. We have had to learn the hard way with all the obstacles coming our way in the event planning industry. Planning and executing events are never void of “last minute” issues, even with the best planning and time management. “Always communicate with clients to make them understand whether you can meet the deadline or not, and be honest with them.” Also, you must be willing to learn from your mistakes. I recall an incident where the Kempinski Hotel almost caught fire during an elaborate setup. This one incident made us re-evaluate our standard operating procedures to include and adopt stringent safety practices. 21

38 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Lastly, be persistent and disciplined if you want to be one of the drivers of this industry. Make provisions for general challenges. Persist! Persist! And persist! Challenges are inevitable when it comes to event planning. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are facing challenges and cannot fathom a design. Do not feel too big to ask for what you do not know. Moreover, pay people and collaborate with them to get the job. Don’t give up when the challenges come. In concluding the discourse, Bryan says, “So you see, ten years ago, I was down and almost out of the industry.” It was kind of dark and gloomy. However, in the past decade, through God’s grace, hard work, and not giving up, we have exerted a formidable presence in Ghana’s events planning space and have achieved an amazing feat of productivity and accomplishment therein. We have won top international awards in the process and are on the Power List of DWP’s “100 sought-after wedding planners in the world.” Born into a family of seven and bred in Accra, Bryan is a proud and devoted Christian. A product of Mfantsipim School, he earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Ghana. Bryan is not only the Chief Executive Officer of WHITECHALK, but he also owns and manages a production company known as MAGICHOUSE. 10.

40 February 2022 The Birthday Journal Esther Ama Morkor stared blankly at the doctor, her whole body trembling and her tongue dryer than it had been that morning. This was the result she had expected, yet hearing confirmation from the doctor’s own lips suddenly made it real. It was like something she could touch. Lord, have mercy! The Legacy of Esther and Her Brave Battle Against Cancer In just a matter of seconds, her whole life rolled out before her like a film reel. She saw her handsome father, Charles Newman, her saintly mother, Hannah Baker Acquah, and her loving siblings. She saw her childhood as the feisty, sassy, precocious Ama Morkor, who did not allow anyone to walk over her. On a normal day, she would have smiled at the thought that she was considered the most troublesome of all her mother’s children. She saw her own children, (Margaret, Philomena, Dominic and Betty), each of them exactly as they had beenborn.Sherememberedholding them in her arms. Her children, who saw her as their confidante and critic, as their “go to” person. How would they cope without her? She could see the day shewas born again and how her faith in Christ had helped her through the challenging phases of her life. She recalled how she had immersed herself in the work of God and had risen in the hierarchy of the Methodist Church. This was not how it should have ended. She was supposed to grow old, to see her children get married and carry her grandchildren on her back. However, that was not meant to be. There she was, a middle-aged woman dying of cancer. The doctor’s lips moved, but she didn’t hear him. She didn’t want to hear anymore. All she wanted to do was go home, curl up and sleep. Then as her senses returned, she heard him say resolutely, “there is hope, there is hope. We will use the most aggressive treatment. Trust me.” Listening as the doctor tried to pump hope back into her, she couldn’t help but see the hopelessness of it all. The die was rolled. Her own body was failing her. Feeling numb, her mind raced back to a few days ago when she first detected the hard mass in her breast; her heart, pumping likemad. She had felt it again, willing it to go away, praying that it was just one of the tissues in her breast, but when she touched it again, it was there, a mass more solid than her breast tissues. At the Cocoa Clinic, the lump was removed and sent to the lab for a biopsy. So, there she sat in front of the doctor being told that the lump was cancerous and that her breast had to be removed. “In those days, the word cancer was synonymous with death. I initially accepted the fact that I was going to die and began to come to terms with it. I thought if that’s the way God wanted to take me, fair enough. The actual dying wasn’t a problem per se, it was the emotional and physical separation from my children that was my main problem. None of them had finished schooling at the time, and that was the saddest part for me. I kept the diagnosis and treatment from them in order not to burden them. I believed that breaking the emotional bond between myself and my children would make the dying process easy for me, so I started to distance myself from them.” One day, while at a prayer meeting, a prophecy came clearly to her, “This is not unto death, but for My own glorification.” “The word of God had come and I had to hold on to it, but holding on was not easy.” ESTHER AMA MORKOR DEGRAF T - A I DOO Unstoppable Eighty & “The word of God had come and I had to hold on to it, but holding on was not easy.”

41 February 2022 The Birthday Journal “It was a real battle. One minute you feel fine, you are not going to die, and the next minute you think you don’t have the will and you are going to die.” Esther Ama Morkor

42 February 2022 The Birthday Journal The prophecy brought some comfort, but as she sat down to eat the following morning, a small voice whispered in her ears, “What makes you think that you will survive this? How special are you from all the other people who have died? “Putting the tea cup back on the saucer, her tongue dried out again. “That is when the real battle actually begins. That is, the spiritual battle. As soon as I tried to be strong, the negative thoughts crept in. But once I accepted God’s word that I was not going to die, I told myself that I was going to live to the glory of God.” Esther had been warned about the effects of chemotherapy, but nothing prepared her for the reality of it. So when one day, while combing her hair, large clumps of hair began falling from her head, she felt terrified. Coupled with this was the loss of appetite, the soremouth and throat, the vomiting, the consistent tiredness, her gnarled, discoloured nails, her ashy skin, and the sheer weight loss. The effects of chemotherapy took their toll on her. There were days when she felt she would not live to see the next day. “It was a real battle. One minute you feel fine, you are not going to die, and the next minute you think you don’t have the will and you are going to die.” It helped that her children were all away in boarding school. So far, she had succeeded in keeping the secret from them, and she thought she was doing a good job of distancing herself from them. Until one day, while in her bathroom, the door opened and who walked in but her son, Yooku, leaving her feeling very stunned. Yooku recalls, The year was 1994. I had left school to buy stuff at the Sonturk Supermarket when I bumped into my uncle, Professor Micah, at the supermarket. After pleasantries and a brief chat, he mentioned that they (Uncle Micah and Auntie Gladys) would always be there for me and my siblings and concludedby saying that with God all things were possible, so we should continue to live in the hope that Mummy would be healed. This conversation got me slightly puzzled, but I attached little significance to it at the time. A few weeks later, I went home. When I got in, I was told Mummy was in her bedroom. I went upstairs and heard a noise from her bathroom, so I went in and saw my mother. She was sitting in the bath, bald with a few strands of hair sticking up like iron filings attracted to a magnet. She turned sideways but was not quick enough to hide her mastectomy scars. I also noticed that her fingernails had turned brown and she kept vomiting. She stepped out of the bath, robed, and told me she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was a big blow to Yooku, who asked her what the prognosis was. However, she didn’t answer him. Rather, she delved into an indirect lecture about what she expected of him in her absence, causing him to go numb, his legs suddenly becoming weak and unable to support his body. I tried muttering a few words, but my lips were sealed. I tried crying, but not a single tear dropped on my cheeks. Even though I was present in the room with Mummy, it felt like I was in a trance. I can’t explain the experience, and I have never shared this weird encounter with anyone, not even with my beautiful beloved wife Dora. I was angry and was expressing my anger with whoever I was talking to. It was a blurry experience, as though I was high Dominic Yooku and Esther